J.K.R I am not.


"I failed you…"

The last green traces of summer were being swept away by autumn's entrance. The winds, blowing from the north, licked bitterly at the woman's skin as she stood there, surrounded by the soft rustle of leaves being pushed over dry grass.

"I always failed you…"

She walked past the white marble mausoleum that housed the former headmaster and set her eyes on the smaller, more subdued gravestone hiding in its shadow.

"I suppose it's fitting, that they laid you here, with him looming over you, even in death. They had the audacity to say it was by your hand…like you were a common criminal. I knew though; I knew there was a reason for it. I always knew."

She knelt before the stone and traced the lettering engraved upon its surface with a long, pale finger.

"I watched you…always. I knew your heart, and it was better than most men could ever dare to understand. The choices you made…some of them were wrong, I won't deny it; but you, you were man enough to own it!"

Cool tears were tracking down her cheeks, dropping onto the threadbare fabric of her dress. She gripped the stone with her hands, aching to feel some presence of him there.

"Sometimes I wonder if you knew. I remember, one time, in the library, I was carrying a stack of books when a young boy ran across my path, causing me to trip. You were there…and you saw me fall, saw the books scatter in the air and land on me with their sharp and hurtful angles. You ran to me and helped me up with a gentle hand…just like a good son. I thought my eyes might give me away…until I saw yours…and thought the same of you."

Her face reflected in the cold, black granite, pale and white and so much like his…even with the minor charms and glamours…just enough to turn away his curious eyes. She heard a rustling and turned to see a few students crossing the lawn. She watched them as they passed, willing them to feel the somberness she did…daring them to act as if joy was allowed. She returned her eyes to the stone.

"I'm sorry that I wasn't the mother you deserved…and for…your father. For every bruise he ever laid upon you, please, forgive me. I'd have taken them all if I'd been able… You were…so small…"

For a moment, her mind left the ground of Hogwarts, its rolling hills still gouged with ugly trenches and littered with heavy stones, evident of the war so shortly passed. She was instead watching a tiny boy on the floor of a dirty room as he cried, clutching a stuffed toy and holding to his chest, the arm his father had just wrenched from its socket. Tears of hurt streamed down his sallow, malnourished face and her heart felt as if it had been ripped with a dull knife. She ran to him to offer any comfort she could muster, but as her hand reached to smooth the blackness of his hair, he was gone into vapor and the cold wind bit at her again.

"I thought it might be better this way…if you thought…if you could leave me behind. You were of age and he was dead and I was a weight around your shoulders, another burden you should have never been asked to bear. You mourned for me…I'll never understand it. The coroner told you I was buried in a pauper's field while you were away at school, unreachable. Why did you mourn for me? I wish I could have asked you. I didn't deserve a single tear you shed…I didn't. You must have known. I did little to hide it by the name Irma, Irma Pince; I'm a Prince…I think I wanted you to know, even if it was just passing consideration."

She let out a hollow, smirking laugh and he appeared on her face, written in every line, staring out of her dark eyes, curving up at the corner of her lip.

"I wish I could have protected you, just once, held you in my arms after those nights, the ones where you were called to your master's side…whichever master it was. Both cared equally as much. Did you ever know anything but pain? You were so used…always so used. I'm sorry…"

She let her hand trail into the pocket of her robes and withdrew from it a misshapen toy fox. The small stuffed creature was dirty, stained, and obviously worn by hours of play. It was missing an eye and the seams were pulled apart in a few places. She held it lovingly for a minute, running her hand over the insignificant little creature and then laid it at the foot of the stone.

"They gave you a hero's funeral…absolution. How can vindication feel so hollow? I didn't need it to feel proud of you. I always have been…always. I just want to stroke your hair, call you son, and for once, for once, do anything but fail you."

She stood, wiped her eyes, and began to walk back to the castle, letting her fingers run along the smooth contours of the monument as she left it. She would leave tonight…nothing kept her here now. It only held for her the evidence of failure, marked beneath a lonely stone in the shadow of another man.

AN: This just fell into my head...who knows where it came from. Rated T for the implied abuse. Feel free to drop a review...